The bus picked me up from Bangkok in the early hours of the morning. Almost immediately I got chatting to a girl who was just on her way to Poipet (the Thai-Cambodian border) to do a visa run. Her name was Sarah – from Sarah to Sarah, quite ironic! She told me all about her last visit to Siem Reap and was especially detailed when it came to the border crossing. It’s going to be crazy, she said. Be prepared to get ripped off. I knew the price of the visa: $20USD. I wasn’t going to pay any more and I definitely wasn’t going to pay in Thai baht.
The closer we got the border, the more the bus driver and guides tried to get us to buy the visa in advance. They used all the most persuasive arguments: they only accept 1200thai baht, you’ll have to wait hours at the border to pay in USDs, the bus will leave you behind. They promised us that they were telling the truth (ha!). And, by the end of the five hour trip to the border, every single person except me had bought their visa in advance. The bus driver advanced on me. I had to pay him or else get left behind. Other passengers looked at me with pity in their eyes, one of them even had the nerve to pat me on the back and say “good luck” in a patronizing, you-should-have-just-gotten-ripped-off-like-the-rest-of-us kind of way. It just strengthened my resolve. I walked toward the border counter (no line up, by the way!). I was stopped by some men in intimidating police uniform. They asked for my passport. But no! I knew this was one of the tricks that they used to get me to pay baht, so said my trusty informant Sarah (you can always trust a Sarah!). They demanded 1200baht. I actually didn’t have that much thai baht, which helped my cause a little. They ended up taking my passport, which I eventually got back and went to the counter and got my 20USD visa as if it was the easiest thing in the world.
I got back to the bus with the rest of the group – they didn’t leave without me! – and immediately we faced with awful roads. They were so awful that within the first minute, a truck in front of us blew out one of its tires with a huge bang and puff of smoke. It was quite theatric – and we all thought that we had struck a landmine (it being Cambodia and all). Quite the scare for everybody. But the rest of the eight hour journey was uneventful.